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LONDON, England, August 2. USA's Tyler Clary shook off some self-inflicted public relations wounds with an Olympic record to win the men's 200-meter backstroke at the 2012 London Olympics.
Clary, who had been critical in the press of Michael Phelps during Olympic Training Camp before apologizing for the remarks, put all the drama aside to edge Japan's Ryosuke Irie for the Olympic gold medal, 1:53.41 to 1:53.78. Trailing Ryan Lochte at the 150-meter mark, both Clary and Irie had more in the tank. Clary's time bettered Lochte's Olympic record of 1:53.94 used to win gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and improved his lifetime best of 1:54.53 from the techsuit era. Clary still stands fourth all time behind Aaron Peirsol, Irie and Lochte. The win kept the gold medal in American hands, as the U.S. has won each 200 back since 1996. The last non-American to win was Martin Lopez-Zubero at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
“I had a couple of different ways I had foreseen the race playing out with regards to everyone else in the heat and the way things were in the 100 (metres), it was going to be really tough to come back and get my hand on the wall,” Clary said. “But I stuck to my guns and I was able to come by in those last few 15 metres and get my hand on the wall. That was the perfect race I swam tonight, it couldn't have gone any better. I cannot think of anything I could have done any better in the last couple of races. Maybe there's a couple of things. You always have big dreams in your head. You hope that you might pull off something like that. It has not even processed in my mind yet. The fact that I am now the Olympic champion and record holder is something that is very humbling.”
Clary also spoke about overcoming hardship to make his way through Trials and wind up becoming an Olympic champion.
“It's complete redemption, the fact that trials didn't go the way I wanted and everything that's been going on leading up to this,” Clary said. “It's a testament to me more than anything that I can handle anything that gets thrown at me. The first thing that went through my mind after seeing the initial shock of seeing my name first was thinking about my late coach Kevin Perry. He was my coach through high school and easily the influence that got me where I am today and he's definitely looking down at me and smiling right now.”
Irie beat Lochte to the wall for silver, giving him a second Olympic medal. He finished third in the 100 back earlier in the week. That is the first medal for Japan in this event's history. Lochte, meanwhile, picked up his 10th career Olympic medal with a 1:53.94. That pushed him into a tie with Gary Hall Jr. and Franziska van Almsick on the all-time swimming medals chart. Lochte has the 200 IM ahead of him tonight as well.
“I wanted to see 'first' but I couldn't so I feel sorry,” Irie said. “I gave 100% so I am satisfied with my performance. I would like to achieve first next time, that's my future aim. The generation of swimmers has been changing at this Olympics.”
Poland's Radoslaw Kawecki (1:55.59), China's Zhang Fenglin (1:55.59), Japan's Kanako Watanabe (1:57.03), Israel's Yakov Toumarkin (1:57.62) and Australia's Mitch Larkin (1:58.02) also vied for Olympic gold in the event.
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